Revisiting the Relation between Environmental Performance and Environmental Disclosure: An Empirical Analysis
41 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2006
Date Written: April 5, 2006
Previous empirical evidence provided mixed results on the relationship between corporate environmental performance and environmental disclosures. We revisit this relation by testing economics based theories of voluntary disclosure using a more rigorous research design. In particular, we improve on the prior literature by focusing on purely voluntary environmental disclosures and by developing two reliable environmental performance measures using actual toxic emissions and waste management data. We also develop a content analysis index based on the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting guidelines to assess the extent of discretionary disclosures in environmental and social responsibility reports. This index better captures firm disclosures related to its commitment to protect the environment than the indices employed by prior studies. Using a sample of 191 firms from the five most polluting industries in the U.S., we find a positive association between environmental performance and the extent of discretionary environmental disclosures. The result is consistent with the predictions of the economics based voluntary disclosure theory.
Keywords: discretionary environmental disclosures, environmental performance, voluntary disclosure theory, pollution propensity, content analysis, global reporting initiative
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